Leather container covered entirely with cowrie shells, Niger Credit: Science Museum,London. Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

African Kingdoms.co.uk is a one-stop website with a suite of resources for teachers planning to teach West African history. It is aimed at British teachers from Key Stage 2 through to Key Stage 5, but many of the materials will also be of use to teachers from other countries teaching these topics even according to different syllabi.

The teaching aids tab offers two sets of materials: 1, a series of 5 webinars and associated materials with teaching resources delivered by Nick Dennis (Schools History Project), Trevor Getz (San Francisco State University; World History Project; author, A Primer for Teaching African History) and Toby Green (King’s College, London; OCR A Level consultant; author, A Fistful of Shells), with special guests Zeinab Badawi (BBC Hard Talk, present of the BBC History of Africa series) and Tony Yeboah (Yale University), which were recorded between April and June 2020; and 2, a scheme of work developed by Julie Curtis, a teacher delivering the African Kingdoms A level option which was developed by the OCR in collaboration with Toby Green, and which has been on the syllabus since 2016.

Materials on the site deliver teaching aids and ideas for 5 major kingdoms in West and West-Central Africa:

(1) Asante; (2) Songhay (also touching on the history of the earlier empire of Mali);
Dahomey and Oyo; (4) Kongo; (5) Benin.

Teachers at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 can deliver materials on any of these kingdoms as part of their world history approach, and in line with the commitments expressed by leading educators to decolonise education in the UK and the US. At A level, students taking the OCR A Level option can take this option as their “foreign study” element of their A level course. Studying early African history makes student applications stand out to universities as offering a different set of skills and the ability to tackle something new.

In general, the study of early African history achieves two key aims. Firstly, it brings diversity and range to what has always been a narrow History syllabus in British schools, and speaks to the modern nation. Second, it broadens the sense of what “History” is as a discipline, and introduces students to different approaches to historical sources and evidence. It offers a new type of History, beyond the traditional “Hitler and the Henrys” approach which has characterised so much of the British school History syllabus.

Some useful general works published in the last few years include:
Ana-Lucia Araujo: Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History (Bloomsbury, 2017)
Francois-Xavier Fauvelle: The Golden Rhinoceros: Histories of the African Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 2018)
Howard French: Born in Blackness: Africa, Africans and the Making of the Modern World, 1471 to the Second World War (Liveright, 2021)
Trevor Getz: A Primer for Teaching African History: Ten Guiding Principles (Duke University Press, 2018)
Michael A. Gomez: African Dominion: A New History of Empire in Early and Medieval West Africa (Princeton University Press, 2018)
Cécile Fromont: The Art of Conversion: Christian Visual Culture in the Kingdom of Kongo (University of North Carolina Press, 2014)
Toby Green: A Fistful of Shells: West Africa From the Rise of the Slave Trade to the Age of Revolution (Allen Lane/University of Chicago Press, 2019)
Linda M. Heywood: Njinga of Angola: Africa’s Warrior Queen (Harvard University Press, 2017)
Dan Hicks: The Brutish Museums: The Benin Bronzes, Colonial Violence and Cultural Restitution (Pluto Press, 2020)
John K. Thornton: A History of West-Central Africa to 1850 (Cambridge University Press, 2020)

We are pleased to acknowledge our funders, without which this site would not be here, and the web designer Patricio Soto-Aguilar. Work on this website has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Department of History at King’s College, London. The site is hosted by King’s College, London.

All efforts have been made to contact copyright holders where appropriate; any omissions will be rectified if brought to the attention of the website manager.